Tell us how the idea of a product in capsules was born
I’ve always been working on sports supplements, in the ’90s with my company and then as a consultant for many italian companies. Supplements are special foods, destined for a niche of very demanding people, so you have to know the legislation and what this kind of consumers are looking for; it is not so easy to deal with such a product.
This year Italbugs has formulated a special product: Xdutch. It contains insect proteins but this is not clearly declared. Why?
Xdutch is really a good product! First, it’s 100% natural and sustainable: ideal for both paleo and raw diet …
Yes…but, are bugs in there?
Of course! But we do not think that saying “Hey! Look at this insect-based product … “ is an ideal way for promotion. In this way you can stimulate curiosity (or disgust) but then the game “Eating insects? Done!” ends.
We prefer a longer-lasting and less-impressive positioning. One thing is talking about insects, another is to support and validate a concept of “clean protein”. So, we sell clean proteins, clean for the health and the environment. This is the legacy left by FAO and by Expo2015.
Insects as food are far to become a reality?
No! We, as many know, produce in Holland and here they are a consolidated reality, sold in the supermarkets. We produce functional food matrices that have little to do with their origin. Let’s play a bit: the BCAA (branched amino acids) for example, where do they come from? Answer: they can be synthesized or plant-derived. People using them have ever asked where do they came from? No! And again: hyaluronic acid, icon of the beauty market, where does it come from? Cattle, cockscomb or synthesis?
We produce products designed for the health of the environment and that of the consumer. The issue if insects are food is something that now only affects Italy.
So Italbugs does not like the Italian market?
Italy is a country with a great food culture (heritage to be preserved) and a very high average age. For us it is important to be Italian, and “Italian thinking” means being vehicoles of immaterial values such as taste, culture and art. But it also means knowing how to bring these values abroad.
We do not say our capsules contain insects, we prefer to say that we have made a good, natural and performing product. We have put many natural ingredients and functional aromas in. In short, Xdutch is not a plate of snails or an insect resting on pasta or pizza.
Tastings and events involving edible insects surely help to promote entomophagy and bring insects in the plates.
In the West, for cultural reasons, almost nobody likes to have insects in the dish! Whoever says something different does not understand anything! The problem is not disgusting the consumer, no one would ever put a live crab or snail in the mouth. The real challenge is to educate for a healthier and more sustainable consumption of food, which is becoming less and less healthy, safe and available.
Only who works in the correct way respecting the rules helps to open the market. Challenging the rules or sidestep them just help to close it. Look at the food supplements, at the frozen foods and at the the food for microwaves markets: they’re still niche-markets, and that’s mostly due to bad information.
You are a pioneer in this industry, what’s your forecast for the near future?
The future of food innovation starts with the Legislator, without law there is no market. In Europe and in this field, Italy is unfortunately a passive player. While other countries are far ahead and companies have already arrived on shelves with insect-based products, for us edible insects are still and only the food of the future!